CriticalDance Forum

Longevity and the Dancer
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Author:  Basheva [ Wed Dec 27, 2000 10:19 am ]
Post subject:  Longevity and the Dancer

And yet another idea from Christina:<P>She asked (in another thread) if dancers have more longevity because of medical advances, etc.<P>I would ask first if this is a matter of longevity defined as dancing for more years or living longer?<P>It is my opinion, without the backup of statistical facts, that it seems dancers are probably living as long, but not dancing as long. <P>I think the latter is true for several reasons; our society has less tolerance for the older dancer on the stage.<P>The physical demands are much greater today than they used to be. And, so I think the body just wears out faster. Hip and knee replacements in fairly young dancers, being a case in point. <P>I once heard the one of the longest lived groups were ballet teachers, because while they exercised a great deal (by demonstrating and being physically active) they did not actually wear their bodies out by the demands of performance.<P>------------------<BR>Approach life as a dancer approaches the barre, with grace and purpose.<BR>

Author:  Christina [ Wed Dec 27, 2000 11:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Longevity and the Dancer

I'm not sure if we have less tolerance of older dancers on the stage, or that it is more applicable to ballet, specifically. (I'm calling to mind Rasta Thomas, although underage, being allowed to enter senior division at Jackson -- and taking gold medal, as example of the field getting younger and younger in that respect). However, I recall when taking class a couple of years ago, I noticed, among the dancers at the side of the studio, getting ready for next class, a woman who was a dead ringer for a ballerina I had admired decades ago. She had graced the cover of Dancemagazine with Fernando Bujones when they danced Swan Lake together. As I made it across the diagonal, I quickly whispered, "You look just like "_______," to which she replied, "I am." I said something intelligent like "get outta here!" I then stayed to take the next class with her, and she was still exquisite. We both left a little early and while in the dressing room with her, I learned that she was dance captain for the national touring company of "Phantom," and her husband, one of the great male dancers with ABT when they were referred to as "Lucia's Children," was coming to pick her up for rehearsal. I was struck by the fact that (1) she appeared,in every way, to be as youthful as ever; (2) that it was encouraging to see dancers have all of these new venues after ballet; and (3) most importantly, her sense of surprise and humility that I even remembered who she was. I mean, this was a PRIMA BALLERINA, and she was sincerely flattered by my admiration. Many a ballet student could take note of the quiet grace and lack of self-exultation I saw demonstrated by one of the best. <P>Back to longevity -- beyond the luck of good health and lack of injury, I think we need to be open to new ways of being involved in dance in order to continue our enjoyment of it into what the French call the "third age."

Author:  Basheva [ Wed Dec 27, 2000 12:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Longevity and the Dancer

It has been my experience that the "best" are usually the humblest.<P>But, I think that other dance forms are more accepting of the older dancer, than the ballet is - especially now in our time. I think it is also cultural; that our culture is less accepting of older dancers. And I believe that is true even in acting, especially for the female actor. There has been quite a bit of discussion of the lack of roles for older female actors.<P>

Author:  Marie [ Wed Dec 27, 2000 1:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Longevity and the Dancer

Part of the reason for longevity could be better nutritional awareness, dancers eat (a little) better than they used to, not as many smoke as used to, etc. Also I think cross-training has helped. I know more dancers now who understand the benefits of doing something else with their body two or three times a week like using light weights, or going to Pilates, Yoga, etc., in order to strenghten other muscles and to not over fatigue the ones they use all the time in dance. The ones who burn out quickly are often the ones who haven't figured any of this out and sucuumb to overuse injuries.<P>Daniel Nagrin wrote a good book, "How to Dance Forever," on the subject of dancing past 40. The dancers in Nederlands Dance Theatre 3 give me a lot of inspiration for the future.<p>[This message has been edited by Marie (edited December 27, 2000).]

Author:  Misa_danseuse [ Wed Dec 27, 2000 11:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Longevity and the Dancer

In regard to performance opportunities for older dancers, things may be looking up. Several years ago a group of professional dancers (mostly if not all, modern dancers)formed a group called Dancers Over 40. These dancers came from great companies such as Alvin Ailey, Martha Graham etc; in addition to smaller, lesser known troupes. I believe (and correct me if I'm wrong) that the group serves as a support net work as well as an epicenter of activity for the dancers. They create works which may (but are not limited to) deal with the theme of being a mature dancer. Many of the dancers involved are also active choreographers, creating new works for companies in the US and abroad. If anyone's looking for inspiration just think of Alicia Alonso who danced Giselle in her 80's (no joke!)<BR>Marisa<P>------------------<BR><BR>"If it's self expression you are looking for the place for you is the analyst's couch" - Merce Cunningham

Author:  Basheva [ Thu Dec 28, 2000 5:48 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Longevity and the Dancer

Hello Misa - welcome to the board - it's good to have you join us!!<P>I agree with you that Alonso was/is beloved and honored into her older years...but I think she is the exception. I also think she comes from a culture which has a history of honoring seniors, just as the Oriental culture does (Japan, China). I am not so sure that our culture does, however. <P>I have in mind several dancers who were "eased out" of major companies, to make room for younger dancers.

Author:  Misa_danseuse [ Thu Dec 28, 2000 12:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Longevity and the Dancer

So true Basheva! (sadly enough).. Sometimes I think I forget that certain dancers of the more mature genre grace our US stages from other parts of the world. I think the US would love to claim Alonso as their own, but funny how they don't seem to be as willing to nurture their own dancers.. and also funny, when you said Japan I was reminded of Butoh and some of the artists involved such as Eiko and Koma who have had such a huge response in the US.. and how their age and maturity only seem to add brilliance on stage. <P>------------------<BR><BR>"If it's self expression you are looking for the place for you is the analyst's couch" - Merce Cunningham

Author:  Christina [ Thu Dec 28, 2000 1:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Longevity and the Dancer

Nagrin's book is in my home library, and I too think it's a good one. For an extremely interesting take on longevity, how about "The Unmaking Of A Dancer." A 37-year-old woman returns to the professional life after many years off, having a family, dealing with self-esteem that her mother chipped away at, and having to lie about her age. True story and a good one. I'd like to start a new thread about recommended reading for 2001, but although a straight A student, I flunked home ec -- I'm not a very good sewer. Can you help?

Author:  Marie [ Thu Dec 28, 2000 1:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Longevity and the Dancer

It seems to me that I may have read that book Christina but I can't remember, I'll have to check for it at the library. <P>To start a new thread, simply click on "post new topic" and stich away!

Author:  Marie [ Thu Dec 28, 2000 4:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Longevity and the Dancer

Christina is an expert seamstress already, her thread is up in "Fun Stuff".

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Dec 29, 2000 12:15 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Longevity and the Dancer

Here is the link to the section of the NDT site which deals with NDT III, the company for mature dancers, which wows audiences everywhere. This is certainly a developing trend in modern dance, which has the flexibility to accommadate older dancers.<BR> <A HREF="" TARGET=_blank></A> <P>I saw Ballet Atlantique (a modern company which uses 'ballet' in the Continental European sense) earlier this year where the stars were a man of 70 and his wife of 75. It emphasised the point made elsewhere that dance does not have to be like track and field. <p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited December 29, 2000).]

Author:  Basheva [ Fri Dec 29, 2000 6:24 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Longevity and the Dancer

There were three modern dancers here, in San Diego,I knew them from their years of attending ballet class) who formed their own small chamber group, as not only older dancers but also large dancers.<P>By large I don't mean in weight, but in height. They were three excellent modern dancers, with many years of experience (one had been a principal with Martha Graham) and were having trouble finding choreography suitable to their age and taste, and yet still had much to offer. All three were female.<P>The group lasted for quite some time and had a modicum of success.

Author:  trina [ Fri Dec 29, 2000 1:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Longevity and the Dancer

<BR>-There is a group called "Career Transitions for Dancers" based in NYC and LA. I went to a seminar they sponsored here in Seattle in Sept. It was awesome. The group is international in outreach, trying to help mature dancers (or young dancers who want to change careers due to burnout or injury)to "think outside the box". To look at all the skills they have developed and can utilize to transition to other careers or augment their dance career. WE had a tight-knit group of about 20 dancers attend....lots of sharing and activities to pinpoint our individual skills and was a real godsend for me and has helped me to develop career options in personal fitness training and yoga. If anyone has any chance to do any seminars or workshops with this group,, I definetly recommmend it!!

Author:  Basheva [ Fri Dec 29, 2000 1:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Longevity and the Dancer

Trina - wasn't Diane Brace (formerly with PNB and originally from San Diego) involved with that project? If not, I think she was involved with something similar.

Author:  Marie [ Wed Jan 03, 2001 1:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Longevity and the Dancer

Trina, I have heard nothing but good things about the Dancer's Transition Resource Centre in Toronto. In Canada you can get funding for the workshop and retraining if you sign a contract that you won't perform professionally anymore. Is it the same in the US?<P>On a side note, re: longevity, a friend of mine who was a professional cyclist thought dancers were nuts because they didn't have a "season" and tried to maintain a performing weight all year, well all the time, I guess, and maintained the same work-out all year. <P>Cyclists train like crazy to peak at a certain time of the year and then in the winter they cross train and do heavy weight lifting, esentially "bulking up" (and also changing their diet from a less strict one of low fat to more fats and proteins) by building muscle which is contradictory to what they do during the race season, when they cut out all extra fat and do long endurance rides. <P>Cyclists, by the way, have very long professional careers compared to most dancers and have a senior division to carry on to after their pro careers end.

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